‘Dirtybomb’ materials transported through Peace Arch

Published on Thu, Mar 30, 2006 by ara Nelson

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‘Dirty bomb’ materials transported through Peace Arch

By Tara Nelson

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) announced Tuesday that undercover investigators were able to transport enough radioactive material through the U.S.-Canadian border at the Peace Arch port of entry to make two dirty bombs.

According to testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee by Gregory D. Kutz of the GAO, on Dec. 14, 2005, undercover investigators placed two containers of cesium-137 in the trunk of a rental car and drove to the Peace Arch port of entry in Blaine.

Kutz said the investigators were able to forge official documents permitting the transport with the help of a GAO graphic designer and an “off-the-shelf” computer program.

Kutz also said that CBP inspectors at the Peace Arch followed the correct procedures regarding the transport of radioactive materials but failed to check the authenticity of the forged documents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, a dirty bomb is a mix of explosives often mixed with cesium-137. When the explosives are ignited, the blast carries with it radioactive particles that could contaminate the surrounding area.

Although the radiation from such a dirty bomb is unlikely to kill people, residue from an explosion may increase the risk of cancer among those exposed to the radiation. The more direct impacts of a dirty bomb, however, would be the cost of cleanup or the indirect loss of trade and business during cleanup.

The investigators purchased the material from a commercial source by posing as employees of a fictitious company. However, suppliers in the U.S. are not required to determine whether a buyer has a legitimate use for the material.

The complete report is available on the at www.gao.gov, click on “reports and testimony.”